Markets which had been measured via diaries were transitioned to “RPD+” measurement beginning in July 2018. RPD+ leverages set-top box return-path data (in conjunction with strategically-placed code readers and other panel data) to provide ongoing measurement with monthly “books” like in larger DMAs.
The specific timing of the currency change and the availability of “Impact Data” (RPD+ data produced for earlier measurement periods) evolved as Nielsen received feedback from the marketplace and made refinements, based on its assessments of early impact data.
This overall change in measurement methodology has, however, been known to all media agencies and media sellers for a long time.
Any methodology change has the potential to create some level of uncertainty and instability in the marketplace. Audience shares and ratings will exhibit some shifts. Exacerbating this challenge has been the timing of the shift — particularly in relation to the timing of the issuance (and reissuance) of so-called “Impact Data,” which allows buyers and sellers to compare real measurement data for the same time period across both methodologies.
There Has Been Time To Prepare
In an ideal world, media buyers and media sellers would have had a full year’s worth of Impact Data on RPD+ to compare against Diary. We do not pretend that data availability from Nielsen has been ideal for this transition. However:
November, 2017 and February, 2018 impact data was released in June 2018
July RPD+ data was released 9/4-9/6
August RPD+ data was released 10/1-10/3
September RPD+ data was released 10/29-10/31
This collectively should have allowed adequate time for buyers to re-rate their Q3 and Q4 buys on the new currency, providing updated audience estimates to post against. Barring this, accountability might be based on the Diary estimates, despite the fact that two differing methodologies make for an imperfect comparison.
Any pre-agreed changes in delivery threshold should have been documented between the parties – prior to schedules airing, not after the fact.
It is possible, therefore, for advertisers to hold media agencies and media sellers accountable, and they should not be asked to forego accountability, due to a marketplace currency transition. Delivery accountability is part of what they paid for, because it is built into the marketplace expectation in this media channel.
If they were not going to receive said accountability, advertisers’ purchase costs should have been adjusted downward to compensate them accordingly. (We’ve yet to hear of any such arrangement.)
Advertisers Should Still Expect Accountability
Advertisers should expect accountability during and after the transition to RPD+ measurement. The advertiser’s media agency has purchased an audience on the client’s behalf, and that client should receive some quantification as to the degree to which it was delivered.
If there were to be no actionability behind RPD+ data in third-quarter 2018, then why produce it and call it currency— or charge media buyers and media sellers for this improved currency? Advertisers should not have to suffer through one or more quarters with no meaningful delivery accountability.
Nielsen has provided media agencies and media sellers with guidance on appropriate and permissible use of the Diary data, Impact Data and the RPD+ currency data published beginning in July,2018.
Essentially, Nielsen discourages comparing new audience estimates (RPD+) with data from Diary surveys, stating: “There is not a commonality between the diary and RPD+ methodologies.” However, they acknowledge “it is critical to remember that media buyers and media sellers have, in good faith, made agreements based on diary currency, Advertisers, also acting in good faith, have agreed to pay for that inventory.”
A few things seem clear:
Advertisers should not have to submit to a free-for-all period where there is no accountability (or where it is unreasonably relaxed).
Buyers and sellers have known about this transition for a long time.
Buyers and sellers should have communicated and documented accountability expectations for the period following the transition long before it occurred.
The good news is that the result of these changes will provide ongoing measurement with greatly increased stability in these DMAs. Sample sizes, or “In Tabs” in these DMAs, will increase from 5x to more than 100x by market. Until the marketplace begins to reap the benefits of this improvement in measurement, it is reasonable to expect media buyers and media sellers to work together in good faith during this transition period.
However, media buyers represent advertisers, and clients should not be asked to forego reasonable accountability expectations. This would be akin to asking them to foot the entire bill for the cost of the transition to the entire ecosystem, and that is not appropriate.